Glossary / A / Adjunct Professor

Adjunct Professor

What is an adjunct professor?

An adjunct professor is someone who teaches at a college or university on a part-time basis. Adjunct professors are usually paid by the course rather than receiving an annual salary, and they may have other duties such as teaching in high school, community colleges, adult education programs, or are already teaching at other universities.

Some universities will hire adjuncts to teach specific courses while others might use them for all of their classes because it can be cheaper than hiring more full-time faculty members. 

Adjuncts usually have full-time jobs in other fields, and they may work as adjuncts for many years before being offered tenure at the university where they teach. They typically do not supervise graduate students or participate in faculty governance except when voting during college elections.

In some cases, an institution will hire adjunct professors to provide instruction that would be cost-prohibitive if it were provided by tenured faculty members—for example, courses with fewer than 20 students enrolled per semester might be taught by an adjunct rather than requiring one entire course from a tenured professor’s teaching load every year.

Adjuncts usually don’t receive benefits such as healthcare coverage, paid holidays off from work, retirement contributions, or sick days although they do earn more than those working full-time minimum wage jobs because of the hours they put into each course that is taught.

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